MASSIVE Scream Factory rundown Review PART ONE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE PART 2, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, THE HALLOW and More!!

SF1Let’s be honest here: Scream Factory is a continuous machine, releasing genre favorites and various other films every year, with a strong emphasis on putting out films that horror fans have been dying to see given the deluxe treatment. From the early days of putting out awesome special editions of films like HALLOWEEN III and LIFEFORCE, to their ongoing partnership with IFC Midnight for releases such as THE BABADOOK or DARK SUMMER, it’s a surefire fact that they’ve instilled an all across the board approach to the horror home video plateau. We dedicated a pretty hefty amount of time this past week to giving recent and upcoming SF releases an in depth look, so naturally, here’s part one of our two-part our MASSIVE Scream Factory rundown review!

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THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE PART 2 (April 19th)

With a brand new 2K HD transfer and a large amount of special features, this upcoming release is definitely worth your time. Looking better than it ever has, Tobe Hooper’s 1986 sequel to his horror classic might not have hit the box office too well during its initial release, but this cult classic is given such a large amount of love in this release, a two-disc release full of goodies.

Following Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper), the uncle of the first film’s Sally and Franklin characters, TCM 2 traded in the sheer terror and summer heat misery of the original movie in favor of a pitch black comedic approach that works so well for the film. It’s a gory, hilarious movie, with excellent performances by Hopper and (he’s absolutely insane in it), STEPFATHER 2/TALES OF HALLOWEEN‘s Caroline Williams as a Texas Ranger and a radio DJ looking for the truth and location behind the murderous, cannibal Sawyer family. TCM 2’s Sawyer family is a pretty different interpretation, focusing more on Leatherface (played by Bill Johnson in this one) and his crush on Stretch, his “far out” brother (the steel plate-headed Chop Top, which is easily Bill Moseley’s best role to date) and their older sibling, the chili cookoff winning Drayton Sawyer (Jim Siedow as the sole returning cast member from the original). As the psychotic family travels around murdering people, one of their most recent exploits involving the slicing and dicing of a couple of yuppies, is recorded over the radio air by Stretch, sending the family her way.

It’s a series of completely batshit insane sequences, some of which are hands down the most entertaining horror comedy scenes of all time (you can’t tell me that “Lick my plate, you dog dick!” isn’t the best line ever), combined with some excellently grotesque special effects from Tom Savini and his crew. Sure it’s not the in your face, absolutely terrifying film that the original TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE was, but the out in left field approach feels like something different, giving horror fans a change of pace and a chance for the whole cast to shine.

The special features include past commentaries and a brand new one with DP Richard Kooris, Production Designer Cary White, Script Supervisor Laura Kooris and Property Master Michael Sullivan, but the real stars of this release are found within the second disc. We’ve got the House of Pain doc featuring some hilarious stories from various effect artists who worked on the film, including one story in which Tom Savini accidentally unleashed a pot of hot coffee all over his pants in the middle of filming and being unable to stop what effect was being filmed. Stuff like that and various other tales regarding the experience of filming such a weird sequel are entertaining on their own, and that’s just the first of many supplemental treats. Yuppie Meat gives us interview with the “Bright Lights, Big Titties!” yuppies of the film’s opening, former actors Chris Douridas and Barry Kinyon. It’s cool to hear the duo speak about one of my favorite film openings of all time, with Douridas telling us how writer Kit Carson was mostly the person who spoke to them and gave them suggestions and ideas, including those goddamn glasses! Cutting Moments and Behind the Mask gives us interview with the film’s editor and Cannon regular, Alain Jakubowicz and stuntman Bob Elmore, who played Leatherface during the film’s various action sequences. Both are fun to watch, with Jakubowicz speaking about working with Cannon producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, leading to his work on Tobe Hooper’s INVADERS FROM MARS and eventually to Hooper hiring him for TCM 2 editing. Elmore seems a bit put off by the film, which isn’t all too fun, but his recollections of filming it are at times pretty funny and completely informative, a good interview for lovers of the film. Sean Clark gives us a brand new episode of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds, which is fun, but a bit lacking, not because of anything Clark does, but due to the lack of filming locations in present day. You can tell he’s working with what he has and has genuine admiration for the film, so this episode of HHH is a win in my opinion. The disc also carries over the It Runs in the Family feature length doc from the previous Bluray release, which is great for viewers wanting to hear what Moseley, Williams and various other cast members have to say about this wild, crazy film.

 

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John Carpenter’s VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (April 12th)

Shunned upon its theatrical release, John Carpenter’s VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED hits a brand new Collector’s Edition Bluray on April 12th, and having spent quite a bit time with this one, I can honestly say it’s my favorite Scream Factory release in quite some time. It’s not a perfect film, there’s a hefty amount of character development missing, but after sitting through the disc’s supplemental material, it’s obvious why: Universal wanted a rushed film.

A remake of the 1960 film of the same name, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED tells the tale of Midwich, a small and tight-knit town that is greatly affected by an unexplained blackout, resulting in most of the town’s women to suddenly be pregnant. All of their babies are born at the same time, and as they grow into children, their hair is platinum, their eyes light up when upset and they begin to exhibit supernatural powers. Soon, the children are causing deaths left and right and a group of townspeople, filled with the ensemble of Christopher Reeve (SUPERMAN), Kirstie Alley (RUNAWAY), Mark Hamill (STAR WARS) and quite a few others all try in their own way to stop the children before it’s too late.

Why the film gets so much hate is beyond me. Sure (as previously stated) it has its issues, but performances by Reeve, Hammill and then children Lindsey Haun and Thomas Dekker are quite impressive, and though the film was infamously taken away by the studio, it still has enough of the Carpenter flare to make for one enjoyable flick. It’s a back and forth game between Reeve and his daughter (played by Haun), who also happens to be the vicious leader of the children. Carpenter regulars Peter Jason and Buck Flower are present as well, making the film feel that much closer to JC’s other work.

As entertaining as the film IS, what makes this release such a win, is how much time was obviously devoted to the disc’s supplemental section. We’ve got It Takes a Village: The Making of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, a pretty lengthy and fun doc featuring Carpenter, his wife/producing partner Sandy King, actors Michael Paré, Peter Jason, Meredith Salenger, Cody Dorkin, Karen Kahn, Lindsey Haun, Danielle Wiener, Thomas Dekker and makeup effects master Greg Nicotero. The doc is very informative, with Carpenter speaking on how he decided to do the film, as well as very entertaining (and hilarious) recollections from Dekker, Haun, Wiener and Dorkin, all four having played the devious children (with the exception of Dekker’s David character). You can tell how fond they are of the experience and it’s pretty comical to see Dekker crack himself up reciting the lines from his softy David character. Also on the disc is The Go-To Guy: My Career With John Carpenter, a really fun interview with Peter Jason, who recollects every film he did with Carpenter in chronological order, from PRINCE OF DARKNESS, all the way up to GHOSTS OF MARS. His stories of bugging Carpenter into giving him a role in BODY BAGS and playing the middle man when Carpenter and Reeve butted heads during the filming of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED are awesome to hear, giving you insight into the behind the scenes happenings during filming. There are some deleted scenes, vintage interviews and behind the scenes footage and a still gallery as well, but the other part of the disc that’s a must see, is its episode of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds, with Sean Clark doing a really entertaining episode devoted to the film.

 

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#HORROR (Available NOW)

Quite the dilemma with this one. A satire of high art and our obsession with social network, status and a decent amount of other topics, Tara Subkoff’s #HORROR is both a great film and a frustrating one, not relying enough on its excellent cinematography and ideas, and too much on animated menus taking up too much of the film’s running time.

Focusing on a group of upper-class tweens having a sleepover and the effects of bullying, the film does an excellent job of injecting you into the story, especially with some great supporting performances from Chloe Sevigny and Timothy Hutton, both of which are on top of their game. The film looks beautiful and has some pretty serious issues to tackle, but what causes it to almost fail completely, it an over-stylized approach that takes you out of the film every single time it appears. It’s like being bombarded with Candy Crush games and every other annoying cybergame and social network hangups, but instead of introducing it and then allowing the film enough room to showcase how believable both the tweens and adults are, it shoves the animated stuff in your face over and over again. It’s akin to seeing something really unique and refreshing, then having somebody turn the channel every five minutes. It’s frustrating and distracting, because like I said, the film has some interesting things to say, it’s just unfortunate that it doesn’t let those issues play out on their own. When the kids’ bullying gets out of hand, a masked killer begins to pick them off one by one, and the fact that we’re watching pre-teens in danger adds to how unique the film is and also makes it that much more out of hand when we’re not given the chance to enjoy the story.

#HORROR is a bare bones release, with no special features included.


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THE HALLOW (Available NOW)

Wildly inventive and completely entertaining, Corin Hardy’s Irish folklore fairytale of a nightmare, THE HALLOW, is a film that is not only worth picking up, but one that you’ll find yourself watching over and over.  Loaded with enough special features to give any supplemental junkie their fix, THE HALLOW is yet another home run from the gang at Scream Factory.

When a conservationist moves to Ireland with his wife and newborn son, he immediately comes across a dead animal with an oozing black substance on it. Taking the bars off of the windows and various other renovations to the house, the family is warned by locals not to alter anything and to heed their warnings about folklore fairies and other creatures in the nearby woods. The black ooze is studied by the man and he quickly finds out that it’s an organism that injects its prey, infecting it and taking over its mind. Soon, the black substance is found in the house and the creatures in the woods come to give the family enough horror to make any horror fan want to see a whole series devoted to the film’s creatures and folklore.

Hardy’s adoration of all thing practical is evident, with the film’s creatures being mostly there with the actors. There’s some added CGI, but only to help the practical effects out, and you almost don’t notice when things aren’t practical and there. It’s easy to fall in love with the film, the plot is interesting, the actors and quite excellent and the effects are outstanding. It’s no wonder that Hardy was tapped to direct the long-delayed reboot of THE CROW (which he has since exited after almost two years of trying to get it off the ground), his eye for visual wonder is impressive, and he knows how to really pull you into his characters and their situations. We want the family to make it out alive, and when they’re in danger, we as viewers care, something that gets lost at times in a lot of films like this one. The effects and creatures are impressive, but the film doesn’t rely on them to entertain you. They never overshadow the cast, instead they do what they’re intended to do: put the family in danger and make us worried about the outcome.

The supplemental material is INSANE, with the very extensive Surviving the Fairytale: Making The Hallow doc, which runs at over 50 minutes and highlights every step of the process, from pre-production to the first screening. It’s awesome to see how passionate Hardy is and a really in depth making of doc only adds to a films power, so it’s safe to say this one is mind-blowing. Also on the disc are a series of short looks at various elements of the film, from its folklore and story, to the effects involved. Rounding out the special features, we’re given great glimpses at the artwork for the film, Corin Hardy’s skethbooks and some awesome illustrations as well. This is one hell of a film, and Scream Factory’s Bluray release of it is one that you should pick up ASAP.

Cherry Falls

CHERRY FALLS (Available NOW)

One of the most interesting slashers around, CHERRY FALLS was criminally dumped onto the USA Network instead of its planned theatrical release, making it not only the most expensive TV movie ever, but a film that not a lot of people have seen. Thankfully, SF has you fright fanatics covered, with their new Bluray release of the Brittany Murphy/Michael Biehn stabfest, a film that hopefully gets some appreciation this time around.

Turning the slasher trope on its head, CHERRY FALLS showcases a killer that doesn’t kill the promiscuous teens, but the ones who are virgins. It’s a really interesting approach, one that leads the film’s high school characters to rush and have an all out high school sex party, and also giving us one of Brittany Murphys best roles. Playing Jodi, Murphy does a great job playing a virtuous daughter of Biehn’s sheriff character. Dumped by her boyfriend and with a slight crush on her teacher (Jay Mohr), Jodi is a good wholesome character, something that puts her directly in sight of a killer who may or may not be a mysterious women slashing up virgins left and right.

A whodunnit slasher with some very interesting ideas, CHERRY FALLS does a great job portraying high schoolers in a realistic way, and also showcasing Aussie director Geoffrey Wright (ROMPER STOMPER)’s vision of an arthouse slasher film, stylized in ways we rarely get to see and making the film stand on its own. On the disc’s special feature making doc, we’re told that originally, producer Marshall Persinger wanted David Lynch to helm the film, something that actually makes sense, given how different of a slasher it is. Just the thought of Lynch doing a slasher like CHERRY FALLS is enough to make you depressed at the fact that he decided to pass, but Wright does a great job offering a film that is full of suspicious characters, a town full of secrets and a killer that has you guessing throughout the entire film.

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